camp set

A friendly reminder to my gentile friends re: Charlottesville

There are a bunch of posts going around about donating to local Charlottesville charities in the face of the hate march, and I think this is a great idea.

Do you wanna know an even better idea?

Donate in multiples of $18.

Here, I’ll explain!

Hebrew is a numeric language. That is, all of its words have a numeric value. If you’ve ever seen the movie π, by Darren Aronofsky, there’s a great scene with a Chasidic Jew who explains a little about this and shares a word problem that hinges on it. So there are lots of puns and things that don’t translate, because, well, even if English had numeric values, we can’t guarantee they’d be the same, you know?

So, let’s take a second and talk about chai. Not the tea, the Hebrew word: חי. Those of you who followed my conversion may know this is also (part of) my Hebrew name, in its feminine form: חייה. It means “life.” Chai, you can imagine, is a great word! Lots of kids named Chaim (male) or Chaya (female). “L’chaim,” or “to life,” is the traditional Jewish toast. Our most important holiday, Yom Kippur, features a greeting that translates to “may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.” We talk a lot about chai.

And chai, as you may have guessed, has a numeric value of 18.

It’s a very common Jewish practice to give cash gifts in multiples of $18. For Chanukkah last year I donated $36 to my nieces’ Hebrew school, $18 for each of them, without even a moment’s thought to sync up “what I can afford” with “what’s appropriate and meaningful.” My temple does their donation forms in multiples of $18, with a couple of nominally-normal numbers like $50. It’s one of those cool little cultural things. And I promise you, if Charlottesville gets flooded with $18 donations, the white supremacists and Nazis setting up camp there will notice, and they will know what it means.

Fight the 1488 with the 18.

Fight hate with life.

(Non-Jews, feel free to reblog and share this to other platforms. In fact I genuinely and unironically hope you do, because I’d love to see this take off among gentile donators who want a great, nonviolent way to offer a one-two punch.)

Let’s go on a road trip.“ I wanted to say, "I’ll pack a toothbrush and you bring the camera.

"Let’s drive to new cities where we’ve never been, and fall in love with the noise. Let’s set up camp at the bottom of a mountain; go hiking until we reach the sun. Let’s fall asleep along the beach and wake up with the ocean at our feet.

"Let’s laugh at the way we get caught in the rain. Let’s kiss under a hundred trees. Let’s wake up at 5am and watch the sunrise, or wake up at 11am and let the sunrise watch us.

I wanted to say, "Let’s fall in love like it’s the first time. Let’s pretend to meet again. Maybe this time we’ll be able to work things out. Maybe this time we won’t mess things up.”

—  Sue Zhao // Road Trip

14-year-old John Hron had no time for bullies or racists. The teenager from Sweden went to school with several people that would fall into those categories. He was a keen canoeist and enjoyed playing the guitar.

On the afternoon of the 17th of August, 1995, John and his friend, Christian, were camping by Ingetorpssjon lake near Kode, Sweden. Shortly after they set up camp, four neo-nazis approached their tent. Ranging from 15-years-old to 18-years-old, John recognised one of the reprobates. It was Mikael Fjalljholm, a ruthless bully in his school. John and Mikael had bashed heads beforehand. John was horrified by his racist and cruel behaviour and was known to stand up to him when pushed. But now, Mikael had three friends with him, Daniel Hanson, John Billing and BM, as he was only referred to in the media.

They approached the tent and started to senselessly beat John. They told him to say that he “loves nazism” to which he staunchly refused and received another beating. They kicked and punched him in the head and smashed beer bottles over his head. The sadistic group would beat him for hours and every now and then, would pretend to be apologetic and offer him a drink before starting the attack again. It was a cat and mouse type attack. They burnt him in the fire and burnt his neck with a piece of burning wood.

At some point during the attack, John managed to break free and jump into the lake. However, the group started hollering that they would murder Christian if he did not return. Barely clinging to life, he swam back and the torture continued. When John fell unconscious, they threw him into the lake where he drowned. Christian hitched a ride back home and called police and named John’s killers. When his body was retrieved, it was said that his injuries matched those to somebody who had been hit by a train.

If the grim murder of John wasn’t shocking enough, his killers all received lenient sentences. Daniel was released after just six years while Mikael was sentenced to five years in institutional youth care. The other two received just a few months in prison. John posthumously received the inaugural Stig Dagerman Prize for free speech and world peace.